role call

Kate Bosworth Answers Every Question We Have About Blue Crush

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Anne Marie eats, sleeps, and breathes surfing. When she’s not working as a hotel maid scooping used condoms off the floor or frantically dropping her younger sister off late to school, she’s checking the surf hotline for tide forecasts and dreaming about conquering Pipe — a reef break off O’ahu’s North Shore and a mecca for surfers so she can become a sponsored surf star. Played by Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush, Anne Marie’s fierce determination onscreen stemmed at least in part from the actress’s drive to secure the leading role. When a then 18-year-old Bosworth learned that producers wanted a real surfer for the part, she committed herself to becoming one in a monthlong crash course in Malibu. Bosworth’s skills as a surfer may not have dazzled producers — when she invited them out to watch her shred, she mostly ate sand — but her dedication to getting back on the board and trying again (and again, and again) did impress them. Soon enough, the role was hers.

Bosworth has since made a name for herself beyond the sports drama that launched her career 20 years ago this month. But she’s especially fond of her big break, which opened at No. 3 at the box office and grossed nearly twice its production budget. The success of Blue Crush spawned a direct-to-video sequel in 2011, and for years, a TV series has reportedly been in the works. Bosworth called up Vulture to talk about how she got the part, her real-life friendship with Michelle Rodriguez and Sanoe Lake, and how, in different hands, the film could have been “exploitative.”

What initially drew you to Blue Crush?
I was reading a lot of scripts in 2001, and the parts for women were certainly not multidimensional. The ones that were exhibiting a lot of depth were quite competitive, and I was a “no one” at the time. Being a young blonde girl, there were a lot of roles that were stereotypical bitchy, dumb, or vapid. Not getting roles wasn’t frustrating because that’s the name of the game, but the stereotypes felt disappointing. If you remember the early 2000s, they could be pretty cruel for young girls, so I was feeling a little dejected. I had been in L.A. for about three or four months, and then I was sent the script for Blue Crush. While I had never touched a surfboard, I could connect to the duality of this very strong, fierce determination as well as vulnerability, doubt, and fear because that was very much my life at the time.

I just felt such a deep affinity for her. If you’re lucky in your career, that happens a few times, but it’s normally just a handful. It’s usually because there are some personal crossroads in your life that happen to align with the character, and that was certainly the case with Anne Marie. It wasn’t like, “I hope I get it.” It was like, “I have to get this.”

What was the audition process like? 
I went in and read a bunch of times — it was pretty rigorous. By the end of that process, the filmmaker John Stockwell and Brian Grazer, who was the producer on the project, said, “Look, you clearly have a deep connection with the character, but we really need someone who has some kind of experience surfing. We’re gonna go through a process in about three weeks auditioning real surf girls and see if we can get someone who can act.” I knew I had about a month to learn to surf. So I went through the Yellow Pages and found the surf instructor in Little Dume Beach in Malibu, and I asked him if he could teach me to surf in a month. He laughed and said, “I don’t know, man, but it’s gonna take a lot of dedication every day.” For one month, for about seven to nine hours a day, seven days a week, I was driving to Malibu very early in the morning and surfing. I was very determined and asked John and Brian if they would be willing to watch me surf, much to their surprise. They did. They hired a neutral surfing instructor, and we went out to Malibu, and I just ate it. I thought I was gonna have this glorious finale that aligned with my character in the movie, but I just ate it so many times. I was pretty embarrassed.

Brian and John asked the surf instructor, “Do you think this is something that’s doable?” Remember, I had never been a lead in a movie, and it was a $25 to $30 million budget. At the time, a female-led cast with an unknown as the main lead was pretty uncommon — and certainly for a studio budget like that. He apparently responded, “What I can tell you is that you’re not going to meet anyone more determined.” He basically placed his bet on me, thankfully. It really changed the course of my life. I often use that story when I’m talking to, you know, anyone who’s chasing their dream, specifically in this industry, that it takes a lot of determination and grit — almost more than talent — to achieve the things that you want to achieve in life. I’m so grateful that that experience really set the tone for me as an actor in this industry.

Did you see the full script before you auditioned?
They sent me the full script, and that’s why I fell in love with it so much. In hindsight, these experiences are lightning in a bottle. I’m so grateful that John and Brian visualized the version of the movie that exists because in hindsight, in the wrong hands, it could have been pretty exploitative.

What do you mean by that?
Well, I think that a movie with girls running around in bikinis could be a different version than it was, certainly in the early 2000s. John and Brian are surfers, so they didn’t have any interest in exploiting that other possibility. They were determined to tell a real, authentic surf story, and it just happened to be through the eyes of women.

Was there anything in the script that really stood out to you when you were auditioning?
The line of the movie that impacted me the most when I read the script, and it impacts me the most when I watch the movie today, is the scene where my character is in the water — she’s been dating Matt Davis’s character and has a bit of a breakdown, and he says, “What do you want?” And she goes through a couple of things, but the line where she says, “I’d love to be on the cover of Surfer magazine, but any girl would do.” I remember thinking it’s such a beautiful sentiment for girls. There was a real honesty to this statement that I loved because there was a lot of humility in it, but it was so deeply feminist in the most important sense of the word. That is the beauty of the movie that resonates with so many people, particularly young women, today. I now have moms who are my age that are showing the movie to their daughters, and they’re like, “I remember seeing this movie in the theater, and it changed my life. Now I’m showing it to my daughter, and now she’s really inspired.” I certainly didn’t enter into this experience with that concept or that idea in mind, but it has been the greatest gift, honestly, of any movie I’ve ever been a part of.

Do you remember who else auditioned for the role of Anne Marie at the time?
I remember hearing Jessica Biel. She was quite athletic growing up, as was I. I was an equestrian horse rider and show jumper and played lacrosse, soccer, etc. I don’t know many other people, but I think she would have been really wonderful.

In addition to surf lessons, how else did you prepare to play Anne Marie?
This is so from the mind of an 18-year-old, but I remember going to the hair salon, and I said, “I really want to fry my hair.” Obviously, in the movie, my character has been surfing since she could walk, essentially. So I thought this little blonde baby’s going to have been in the sun her whole life. So I went to the hair salon and I was like, “I need you to bleach blonde my hair and really fry it like it’s been in the seawater and the sun,” and they were horrified. When I went to Hawaii, I really didn’t wear sunscreen. I just wanted to start looking as much as possible like I lived a life in the sea, the salt and the sun. It was a pretty full-on dedication.

How did the crew aim to make Blue Crush as authentic as possible?
When we arrived in Hawaii, they hired so many locals as actors in the movie. My water team and my instructor Brian Keaulana were Indigenous to the island. They were dedicated to honoring not only surf culture but also the culture of Hawaii. There’s many reasons why this story touches so many people and continues to. I heard that after the movie came out, the number of female surfers in the water quadrupled within the year, which is obviously really moving. I started hanging out with surfers Rochelle Ballard and Keala Kennelly, who are badass — ripping, shredding, and paddling out to Pipeline. It was so important to me to honor their story and do whatever I could to become believable.

Did you sustain any serious injuries while learning how to surf?
There was one really close call. It was the scene where Matt Davis and I are paddling out, and I’m teaching him how to surf. He was on a really big wood longboard, and I was on a shortboard, and I was duck-diving underneath the waves, and there was one moment where I duck-dove under a wave and he wiped out where the wave had hit him at a certain angle. His board shot up straight in the air, and as I popped up, his board came down and landed on the top of my head. I went straight down. The next thing I remember is Brian scooping me out of the water with a jet ski and bringing me to shore, and I was going to the hospital for concussion concerns. I ended up being fine, but that was the most harrowing moment in terms of physically sustaining an injury. But that wasn’t the scariest thing. The scariest moments were being at Pipeline because it’s such an unpredictable, fast wave and you can get caught so easily on the inside. The surfers jokingly say if you wipe out, you become hamburger meat.

What was your dynamic like with Michelle and Sanoe during filming?
Michelle, Sanoe, and I lived in a house together in Sunset Beach, so our friendship is just an extension of our everyday life. Obviously, it was very scripted, but there’s a lot of moments where we were just messing around. I was eating so many calories — Michelle would come home from hanging out in Honolulu, and I would wake up in the middle of the night, and she would walk in on me eating this huge salad bowl of ice cream. We were all like sisters, and we still feel that way. It really was that kind of life-changing experience where whenever we see each other, it’s like being reunited with family. We’re very different people, but we used to always say we’re like the perfect points of a triangle.

Did the chemistry between you and Matt Davis feel natural?
It was so natural, so easy, but also kind of perfectly awkward in the ways that were necessary. If I’m honest, I feel like the love story of the movie is really the friendship. In hindsight, I realized how important and honest the love between us was. That pulse in the movie, I think, is what moved so many young women. It was the inspiration to go out there and fulfill your dreams, but it was also a real love story of friendship that I think is equally as important and has resonated so deeply.

Anne Marie schooling the football players on how to throw away a condom is one of the funniest scenes in the movie. What do you remember about shooting that scene?
The condom part, I remember shooting that pretty quickly, actually, but the part that was quite brutal for Michelle, Sanoe, and me was the cleanup prior to that scene in the suite. We didn’t rehearse any of it because John did a lot of handheld so that we could really have the space and be really authentic as they follow us around. There was a fly-on-the-wall style to it that allowed you to really be with the characters. We had walked it through, but it was super-loose, and we didn’t know anything that was gonna be in that suite. So when he shot it, I’m sure he used the first take. Sanoe was so funny and pure in her reactions, and I just remember her discovering all the gross things John had placed throughout the room. If you were to watch that movie back and really look at that scene, I’m sure you could see me on the verge of laughter a lot of the time because her reactions were so funny. She’d never been in a movie before, so she wasn’t really differentiating between things not being real and being real.

After Blue Crush, what kinds of roles started being offered to you?
I had to really fight for that role, as I said, but then all of a sudden, I was considered for every strong, athletic role, and I just laughed. I remember thinking, Oh, that’s how this whole game works. They don’t believe you until you prove it, and then that’s all they want you to do. So I decided to do the opposite. I did a movie called Wonderland, and it was a very gritty, true story. I was interested in inhabiting someone totally different. I certainly didn’t have a plan, but I’ve always been very instinctual. I knew I wanted to really flip the narrative as to what was expected of me. In hindsight, it was probably a little daring to not continue to really build that type of big-studio career, but I instinctively felt the importance of artistic diversity.

Where do you think Anne Marie is now?
That’s a good question. I have some ideas. It’s funny. Michelle, Sanoe, and I always talk about how much we’d like to do another movie. So that’s something I’m sure we’ll be pontificating about for a while, and perhaps we’ll see that come to fruition.

Someone made a Blue Crush sequel in 2011. Do you mean a different type of movie or a true sequel to the original?
A sequel to the OG.

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Kate Bosworth Answers All Our Questions About Blue Crush